I had occasion recently to look up the address of a premises online (the Gotham Café, as it happens). The café is on South Anne Street, Dublin 2. Look, it even says so on their ‘Finding Us’ page.
Google Maps, however, tells me it’s in Ranelagh. South Anne Street, Ranelagh, Dublin 2, to be precise. Now, to me, Ranelagh is a specific part of Dublin 6. Pretty much where the pin is in this other Google Map, in fact.
But if you look closely at that map, you’ll see the pin is within an area bounded in red. The borders of Ranelagh, apparently, stretch in a narrow north-south direction, all the way from from the river Liffey itself in the north, to somewhere between Milltown and Darty in the south, and include too an annexation of Milltown Park.
Similarly, Googling for ‘Cabra’ shows us the Northside area, bounded by the North Circular Road and Phibsboro(ugh) in the east, jumping over Cabra West(!), and including the relatively new estate of Ashtown in the west – but skipping over Riverston Abbey.
So these extraneous instances of suburbs being added to addresses by Google – and my satnav, too – aren’t arbitrary; they’re obviously some official designation. Old electoral wards, perhaps, for local elections? Or old townlands, further out from the city centre?
That’s fine, and an interesting bit of living history, perhaps – but can Google, TomTom, et al, please dispense with their use in addresses? Grafton Street is not in Ranelagh, and Glasnevin Cemetery is not in Finglas East. At least, not to any Dubliner.
What’s worse is that in whatever database or map layer Google and co take their district information from, they switch, apparently at random, between English and Irish. According to Google, for example, the National Library of Ireland’s address is “2 Kildare Street, Droichead Na Dothra, 2”. Droichead Na Dothra? I think they mean Ballsbridge. Which would also be wrong. My last satnav was guilty of this, too – all those Dublin 2 locations were in Ranelagh, just spelt with a lot more consonants and phlegm.
Is any of this important? Not hugely, to a native. Or even to a foreigner from beyond the Pale. For a tourist looking for directions, moreso. Good luck finding Kells if your satnav is directing you to Ceannanas Mór…